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­Mahgul’s balancing act

Mahgul’s eponymous brand has three nominations at this year’s Lux Style Awards and she’s newly appointed Creative Director at Sapphire, one of the country’s biggest high street stores. How she’s manag

­Mahgul’s balancing act
Mahgul Rashid

There are a handful of designers who prefer to let their clothes speak for themselves,  those who prefer to stay away from the limelight and weave entire thought processes into their designs. Mahgul Rashid is one of them and she has now been thrust into the fore as she’s taken up the mantle of Creative Director at Sapphire. A lot is changing for the designer; she explains as she sits down with Instep for an exclusive tête-à-tête.

Mahgul’s eponymous brand has been nominated at this years’ Lux Style Awards in three categories – bridal, lawn and luxury pret.

“Lawn is the most surprising nomination for me because I wasn’t expecting it. I just feel privileged to be nominated amongst the big guns of the industry,” she says. It’s true; Mahgul is the youngest designer to be nominated in the bridal category. “My bridal collection wasn’t commercial and my team was worried how it would sell but we got a lot of orders on it. People have now started coming to us because they want an aesthetic that stands out. That nomination made me really happy.”

Mahgul has, with several strong collections, proven her impeccable design sensibilities but it remains to be seen how she will balance her deeply artistic aesthetic with the mass centric, busy retail cycle Sapphire has. She reveals that one of the first things she wanted to do at Sapphire was to put together a strong team she could trust – this was when Kami came on board as Design Director.

“Kami is my support because he’s got great aesthetic, understands the technicality of design and can give the kind of colour to the consumer I’ll never think of,” she admits.

Since the brand’s goal is to cater to many different tastes, the design team has been divided into what Mahgul is calling ‘design bubbles.’

“Some will love florals and some will resent them. The challenge is to segment the market through the design team and cater to the general aesthetic we follow. I play on the designers’ strengths, moods and will have artists, historians and craftsmen come in to create a broader design perspective,” she explains.

Top_SapphireMahgul is not known to make conventionally pretty clothes, but clothes with character and quirk. She’s been happy designing for the niche audience that connects with her brand rather than everyone. So then, has she had to restrain her design for the mass market at Sapphire? “People call my style funky or edgy but I am neither. I would describe myself as hyper creative –because I am very restrained but different. The only time I hold myself back now is when animals come into play.”

We wondered whether it’s daunting to re-establish the design sensibilities of a brand that has been built from scratch by another designer?

“I’m not looking for it to now be Mahgul’s Sapphire and to have an identity connected to me. With all due respect to the past, I want Sapphire to have an identity independent of Mahgul so if I’m not there the designers can emulate the design philosophy. I’ve only just dipped the tip of my toe into the water and an entire submersion will soon follow.” She hopes to establish Sapphire’s identity as one that embraces our culture, craft, textile but with a global context. There are also plans to collaborate with other designers for small lines and to keep on exploring the market. “We want our finger constantly on the pulse, not like at Mahgul, which is a very slow paced and niche brand,” she says.

It’s definitely an exciting time for the designer and with a thesis in consumerism she seems well equipped to deal with handling the creative direction of a high street store. Sapphire’s backbone of fabric development is also something she’s enjoying dabbling in since she comes from a textile background. According to Mahgul, Sapphire is a bigger project and she’s got better resources to be able to provide her aesthetic to a mass audience. “I always felt that I was limited with the resources I had at Mahgul but here it’s at such a broad scale that we provide something for everyone,” she promises.

Back at her own label, Mahgul will be sitting out PFDC Sunsilk Fashion Week in March but will partake in the PFDC L’Oreal Bridal Week later in the year.

“I want to take Mahgul to the level where one feels like they’re getting an art piece. We’ll be doing our wedding wear and for our ready-to-wear we’ll be doing fabric manipulation and our luxury lawn collaboration with Al-Zohaib but for everything else, I’m leaving that energy for Sapphire now.”

Mehek Saeed

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